ALBUM REVIEW: Mark Pritchard – ‘The Four Worlds’

8/10

Electronica visionary Mark Pritchard released his latest incarnation of magnificent noise, “The Four Worlds” on March 23. This release is the follow up to his brilliant 2016 venture “Under the Sun”. That album stunned with its extraordinary atmospherics and impressionistic palette of sound. It also garnered attention for the single “Beautiful People” which utilized a mesmerizing vocal turn by Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke. “Under the Sun” emphasized Pritchard’s ability to produce electronic music that is rich, evocative, arresting and approachable. “The Four Worlds” continues the journey.

Pritchard is originally from the United Kingdom and now resides in Australia. Over the last few decades he has worn many hats including, producer, performer and record label founder. Since the early 1990’s he has worked in spreading the message of experimental electronica along side legendary practitioners the likes of Richard D. James ( Aphex Twin) and Tom Middleton. A master collaborator with tons of solo works and joint ventures to his credit, his most famous incarnations have been; Reload, Link and Harmonic 313. In 2013 he announced he was doing away with his entire list of alias and would only use his own name for his future solo releases. What immediately resulted were three worthy EP’s on the Warp Records label. Those EP’s are characterized by scintillating, polyrhythmic dance floor oriented electronica. The 2016 release of Under the Sun was a departure from those EP’s, as Pritchard once again returned to the palette of sounds he utilized while creating works under the Global Communications moniker. “Under the Sun” would successfully draw more attention to Pritchard’s ability to use less obvious sonic tones.

With The Four Worlds Pritchard once again delves into the void utilizing his vast experience and abilities to provide a breathtaking work. The release draws much of its inspiration from the soundtrack material created for a virtual reality installation Pritchard and returning co collaborator Jonathan Zawanda developed. Zawanda is an LA-based visual artist/designer who also worked with Pritchard on “Under the Sun”.

On “The Four Worlds” what becomes evident is Prichard’s fearless creativity. Pritchard has accomplished so much in the electronica genre that he is free to follow his muse where ever it leads him and he is only reigned in by his the limits of his own ingenuity. That ingenuity is expressed on this album as it is filled with different facets of ethereal emotion, bittersweet daydreams, and also the dramatic presentation of the threat to mankind’s existence.

The Four Worlds launches with Glasspops which is the most reminiscent of Prichard’s Dance genre works of the past. Yet there is an added dimension of inner vitality with the brilliant alchemy of glitchy percussion and droning synths meshing to make something other. The track grows more insistence and intense as it unspools making for an alluring intrigue. Circle of Fear is impressive with its decidedly more delicate approach. There is an expansive haunted solemnity that hypnotizes with its bittersweet element. Pritchard seems to capture the serenity and panic in the concept of infinity in this offering. Come Let Us is a selection built around a biblical quote from the book of Genesis about the Tower of Babel and also monologue speaker Gregory Whitehead’s piece Ziggurat. Examined is the parallel of our modern self-glorification to this ancient event and how hubris ultimately leads to downfall and dystopia. Whitehead’s delivery is inspired as he draws deep breathes after each pass emphasizing the incantation/chant like vibe of the track.

The Arched Window works as a counterbalance to Come Let Us with a more uplifting atmosphere. The baroque opening transforms into a pixilated modern-day Bach synth concerto, it is cathedral-like and vast. “The Arched Window” is one of the shorter tracks but very impressive. S.O.S. is exactly that a message to the cosmos that our Earth needs assistance. The song delves deep into the possibility of mankind bringing about environmental dystopia and human extinction. The work reads like a prayer for help and forgiveness. The cosmos answers back that it can only hope we will take the necessary steps to save ourselves as it is the only way. This track is chilling yet so sincere and earnest that it stays with you long after it is encountered. If there were ever a hymn to environmentalism this is it and made more so by the churchlike organ accompaniment. The pleading vocal delivery of Susan Dietrich Schneider, or as she is so monikered Space Lady is the personification of Gaia. The selection is in the highpoint of the album. Park Stone Melody II follows up this song with a very haunting interstellar sonic, making the listeners feel as though they are travelling through the cosmos. It is a very effective work with its placement after “S.O.S.” making for a peaceful lulling offering. Men-Au-Tol takes its title from so named Cornwall, England megalithic standing stones. There is a celestial feeling throughout the short track that radiates surprising joy. The harp laden song ends with an outré of cantus chorus, and it is utterly blissful. The title track The Four Worlds is astonishing as again it takes on another sonic flavour. It is a minimalist atavistic selection with atonal percussion and gongs. It harkens to an ancient time and has a pervading sinister feel. It is a fantastic closer to the sonic tonal poem put to tape that is “The Four Worlds”.

“The Four Worlds” captures the understated Pritchard delivering intense passion which seethes just below the surface. The entire recording is subtle and intricate yet conveys a kaleidoscope of feelings. Pritchard’s works when experienced are hard to forget and convert the listener to his vision. I myself have ridden on the edge of developing a serious habit for ambient/electronic music becoming an aficionado of masters in the genre; Mogwai, Tycho, Aphex Twin, Caribou and Four Tet to mention just a few. Since experiencing Prichard’s inspired Under The Sun I have fallen under his alluring spell. The Four Worlds only draws me and fellow travellers deeper into his sonic visions and builds anticipation for what comes next.

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